Pauline Isabelle Marek is a 20 year old Junior attending the Honors College at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. Pauline was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York City where she developed a deep appreciation for her Polish heritage through her constant involvement with the polish-american communities within New York City. After graduating from high school in 2019, Pauline initially majored in Nutrition and Dietetics before officially deciding to change to be a double major in Psychology and Natural and Applied Sciences on a pre-med track. Pauline plans to attend medical school once she graduates in order to fulfill her career goals of becoming a pediatrician.
Deering as Text
Growing up in a predominantly urban area of New York City, my perception of nature and wildlife was much different compared to most people. My understanding in the so-called “concrete jungle” was limited to small city parks, nature documentaries, and infrequent road trips to Upstate, New York which featured an occasional deer or two. Visiting Deering Estate and being able to witness all it had to offer through its scenic views and rich history was a very eye opening experience for me personally. All eight beautifully preserved ecosystems provided me a better insight into the real Miami. The eight distinct ecosystems in Deering Estate include Pine Rockland, Salt Marsh, Mangroves, Submerged SeaGrass Beds, the Deering Estate Flow-way, Remnant Slough, Tropical Hardwood Hammock, and Beach Dune Chicken Key, each ecosystem that I was able to visit was a puzzle piece to a bigger picture.
Although the Boat Basin was not a massive portion of our entire visit to the Deering Estate, it was by far the most fascinating part of the tour for me and has definitely left me with a memory I will cherish for a lifetime. Getting to see manatees at the Boat Basin that day made me feel slightly better about all of my previous failed attempts at the South Beach Marina. The Boat Basin is a body of freshwater that is surrounded by a peaceful environment which in turn attracts wildlife such as manatees, birds, sharks, turtles, rays, and on occasion dolphins. I am already planning a following trip to the Deering Estate as I hear the view of the sunrise and sunset from the Boat Basin is absolutely breathtaking, I was absolutely enamored by the beauty of the Deering Estate and it has furthered my appreciation for nature.
Vizcaya as Text
Over the last two years that I have attended FIU I have never had the pleasure of visiting Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, my knowledge of the estates were limited to pictures online and recounting stories of past visits. On the drive over I couldn’t help but daydream, I began to piece together what I envisioned Vizcaya to look like. As my friend and I pulled into the winding road leading up to the property, Vizcaya immediately exceeded all of my expectations. The road itself leading to the parking lot made me feel as though I was being teleported into a different world far away from the Miami traffic and mass crowds. The serene and isolated estate boasted beautiful statues, arches, and marble designs that were truly breathtaking and unlike anything I have ever seen before, the hints of Italian influence on the architecture, landscaping, and interior design made me ten times more excited for the upcoming Italy study abroad trip.
We entered the main house from the back entrance of the property, the moment that we had stepped inside I was blown away by the statues on display, the choice of plants used for decoration, as well as the intricate painstaking details that were put into the overall design of the villa. Although the main house had been updated with window installations, the flora incorporated as a part of the interior design created a perception within the house making it feel as though the native Miami wildlife was spilling in and taking over the space. The display of plants helped blur the line between the inside and outside which was the original intent when it was decided that no windows would be used in the initial design of the house. Some of my favorite art pieces and visuals stem from the Renaissance period as they are heavily focused on aspects of nature and classical antiquity, these elements were prominently evident across the Museum as well as parts of the Garden.
My day spent at Vizcaya was filled with jaw dropping and speechless moments of awe, meeting two polish tourists at the end of the tour and being able to dust off my first learned language had to be the cherry on top for me. I was also surprised to find out that the Polish Pope John Paul II had previously stood with former president Reagan in the same place where I was taking pictures. I eagerly shared this newly amassed knowledge with my family who were immediately excited to visit Vizcaya next time they’re in Miami. I share their excitement as well and can’t wait to come back to see Vizcaya at night as I heard it is even more enchanting.
Downtown as Text
“The Many Sides of Downtown Miami” by Pauline Isabelle Marek @pauline_marek of @fiuinstagram
Prior to visiting the Downtown Miami area I had only known it for its federal buildings and public service offices, however, I was very surprised to find out that it was actually a place that could be enjoyed by a very diverse demographic. I found numerous areas in Downtown that catered to different interests meaning that there was a great variety to choose from, the areas were clearly driven by businesses of all sorts as well as entertainment and the arts. As the class progressed throughout the day I was able to witness many different architectural designs which alternated anywhere between modern skyscrapers and Spanish renaissance revival. Notable to mention was the transition of architectural design as the class originally started in an area with older more traditionally built buildings attended to by low to middle class citizens, the class eventually ended up in a gentrified prospering modern city surrounded by socialites. The significant difference of where we originally started in comparison to where we had ended class made it seem like we had visited two completely separate places in one day.
The most influential stop of the entire walking class in Downtown Miami was at The Tequesta Indians Miami Circle Park, learning about the various burial grounds that have been unearthed in recent years in the Downtown area was both fascinating and appalling to hear about. Although the burial ground at the Tequesta Indians Miami Circle Park was preserved, it was horrifying to learn about the Tequesta cemetery that was considered second priority to the Whole Foods market that was built across the river from the park. It was very disheartening to find out that the city of Miami had permitted Whole Foods to continue building their store on top of an ancient cemetery consisting of 500 graves with only a mural in remembrance to show for it. As some of my family and friends have come down to see me I have made it one of my goals to not only show them the touristy spots that are associated with Miami but to also educate them with the unfiltered history that paved the way.
The class trip to Downtown Miami was filled with a lot of firsts for me which as a result opened up a whole new perspective of the city. Downtown Miami is a conglomerate of the old and new, despite holding a status as a city it is bespeckled in palm trees and luscious greenery that strays from my interpretation of what a city should look like. Taking the metromover after class also disproved my preconceived notion of what public transportations entails, my previous experiences on the subway and MTA buses were completely trumped with how user friendly and well maintained it was. Overall exploring and getting to know all the different sides of Downtown Miami was enlightening and has opened my eyes to the suppressed history of Miami.
SoBe as Text
“Art Deco Drive” by Pauline Isabelle Marek @pauline_marek of @fiuinstagram
Attending the South Beach walking lecture and getting to witness the “hidden gems” of Ocean Drive have significantly changed my perspective on South Beach. Prior to attending the lecture, previous experiences at South Beach had left me with a longlasting impression of a neverending party scene with overcrowded streets. When taking a step back from the hum of the tourists to take in the colorful scenes all around it dawned on me how easily I had looked past the beautiful Art Deco buildings lining the streets. I was genuinely blown away to hear that the biggest Art Deco city was in fact located in Miami, such a significant feature of South Beach’s charm can be overlooked if someone is unaware of what to look for. The McAplin Ocean Plaza was by far my favorite in the lineup of Art Deco buildings, the overall white building with bright pastel colored detailing stood out among others such as the Colony Hotel.
The South Pointe Park Pier, an equally as touristy location as Ocean Drive itself, was surrounded by a lot of excitement especially by those who were fulfilling their pier jumps. It was interesting to learn about the infamous pier jumps that supposedly everyone that visits Miami must complete before they leave. Although I was initially not planning on jumping, I have officially added it to my bucket list. Looking past the railings of the pier, the extravagant Fisher Island can be seen. The many times that I have visited South Beach I have never been made aware of the history surrounding Fisher Island, finding out that the island previously belonged to Dana A. Dorsey and was originally named Dorsey Island was perplexing. The absence of a memorial or information plaque referring to the entire situation sheds light on the issue of the city of Miami trying to cover up its history. Dana A. Dorsey was the first African-American millionaire in Florida who possessed what is now known as Fisher Island, informing the public of Miami’s past, especially tourists visiting South Beach would be overall very beneficial.
My favorite part of the walking lecture was the brief discussion in regards to the Versace mansion on Ocean Drive, the extenuating circumstances around Versace‘s life is something that I have been interested in. The assassination of Gianni Versace was one of the few cases that I was very intrigued by. The Versace mansion itself stands out completely from the other buildings on Ocean Drive, the opulent building is draped in luxuries and boasts a very pompous atmosphere. I was surprised to find out that Gianni Versace was the mastermind behind dressing formally to work and I feel as though this can be seen in the overall architectural design of his home.